WSW: Progress for Bikes in a Difficult Year

May 10, 2017

A memorial "ghost bike" at the site of the June 7, 2016 crash in Cooper Township, in which a driver killed five cyclists and injured four others.
Credit WMUK

In some ways the last year has been a troubled one for bicycling in Kalamazoo. In June 2016 an allegedly drugged driver killed five cyclists and seriously injured four others as they rode in Cooper Township. But Kalamazoo has also seen progress for bikes in recent months.

The City of Kalamazoo is building a long-awaited downtown connector for the Kalamazoo River Valley Trail, and three local governments have approved safe-passing “five-foot rules” designed to protect cyclists. Kalamazoo Bike Week starts on Saturday.

Kalamazoo Bicycle Club Road Safety Director and Bike Friendly Kalamazoo Founder Paul Selden says the community has “definitely” made progress on welcoming and accommodating cyclists in the last year. Selden says he thinks attitudes were changing before the June 7 crash, leading to progress on city and county Complete Streets plans, passing rules and infrastructure improvements.

“These were all in the works,” told WMUK’s WestSouthwest.

But after last June, “They really did get an impetus because I think people realized the sooner the better,” Selden added.

The City of Kalamazoo, the City of Portage and Oshtemo Township have all passed laws requiring motorists to leave five feet between themselves and a cyclist when passing. KBC Education Chair Paul Wells says that is not as much room as you might think.

“With a motor vehicle particularly moving at a significant rate of speed, passing, five feet is not a big distance and three feet feels like a near miss,” he says.

On WestSouthwest, Selden and Wells explain how to get a feeling for five feet without sticking a tape measure out the window; why cyclists in their opinion need safe access to roads (not just trails); and what drivers should do when they find themselves waiting to pass a bicycle.